Speaking of language, has the vocabulary you’ve used on the show changed at all over the years?
I’ve made it a point to change my language the last two years, because words matter. I never use the word "ethnic eats" anymore, or "hole-in-the-wall" when it refers to a restaurant. […] My name is on the show. If I can't stand behind every word and everything we do in that show, I won't do it.
I think the biggest challenge has come with the thousands of reruns that are out there. In any show we've done in the last year, I have used the term "enslaved African," not "slave"; but shows from 10 years ago, we use the word "slave." It's very hard because a lot of people have trouble discerning the old from the new. We live in this "gotcha" culture of social media, so I've had to let go of some of that. I just need to know at the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow, that I've done the right thing and fought the good fight.
Does this mean you regret the name of your show, Bizarre Foods, which implies that foods from other cultures, are, well "bizarre?"
If I could rename the show, I would rename it tomorrow.
I wish I could change the name of the show, but the brand has so much identity. I think people understand. I haven't eaten a bug on that show in five years. I've changed the show into what I always wanted it to be. When I first started the show and we were trying to name it, Bizarre Foods was not the name of the show. I had some really bad names. One of the shows titles I threw out there was “The Wandering Spoon.” Thank God that didn’t happen.
When I looked in the dictionary under the under "bizarre,” the secondary definition was "unusual or interesting." I've hung onto that for the last 12 years because I do believe in telling unusual and interesting stories. It is unusual and interesting, and it allows me to redefine the word bizarre.